Canola the manatee turns four!

6 Aug 2018
The manatee herd at River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest and their human carers threw an early morning surprise birthday celebration for aquarium mate Canola, the animal icon of River Safari.

River Safari’s Canola the manatee turned four in a celebration with toys and treats in the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit, the world’s largest freshwater aquarium.

PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

 

The manatee herd at River Safari’s Amazon Flooded Forest and their human carers threw an early morning surprise birthday celebration for aquarium mate Canola, the animal icon of River Safari.

Born in Singapore to mother Eva—the largest manatee in the herd—Canola and her friends were treated to a giant vegetable wreath made of sweet potato leaves. They also played with 50 bobbing coconuts, lovingly hand-dyed in green, orange, yellow and red, by Canola’s human carers to resemble balloons in the water.

Abandoned by Eva at birth for unknown reasons, River Safari’s aquarists tendered to baby Canola round-the-clock, and bottle-fed her every two to three hours during the first three months of her life. To increase her fat intake and substitute for her mother’s highly nutritious milk, Canola was given a special milk formula infused with canola oil, which inspired her name.

Today, Canola is a manatee with manners. During feeding times, Canola will patiently await her turn for food and will not jostle. She is also affectionate, and often approaches her human carers when they are in the water, asking for belly rubs by turning belly up. She can also often be found swimming alongside her playmates: female Joella, and males Sundae and Willy.

One of Canola’s carers, Joan Tan, Animal Care Officer, River Safari, said, “The little calf is now an adult, and I cannot believe she already weighs over 300kg! Canola brings joy to us every day with her cuteness – whether it is being really manja (meaning affectionate) to the divers, or acting like a big sister to the younger manatees.”

In conjunction with Canola’s birthday, guests who sign up for Manatee Mania—one of River Safari’s signature behind-the-scenes tours—in the month of August will be able to feed Canola her favourite high fibre biscuits specially wrapped in cabbage as a birthday treat. Manatee Mania offers guests an opportunity to get up close to the manatee herd, feed them, and also participate in their operant conditioning exercises. Interested guests may find out more at https://www.wrs.com.sg/en/river-safari/explore-river-safari/activities/tours.html.  

There are currently seven males and five females in River Safari’s manatee herd. The herd enjoys a daily vegetable buffet, consisting of 10kg of bok choy, 40kg of Chinese cabbage, 40kg of sweet potato leaves, 80kg of banana leaves, 30kg of elephant grass, 3kg of boiled carrots, and 5kg of high fibre pellets. Out of these vegetables, Canola’s favourites are carrots, cabbage and high fibre pellets.

Manatees are listed as Vulnerable in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Although they do not have any natural predators, they face threats because of human activities: fishing boats cut them when they surface to breathe, fishing gears clogs up their intestines, and poaching remains a problem.

Canola swims through the vegetable wreath, guided by one of her human carers, made of sweet potato leaves.

PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE

 

What’s a party without balloons? Canola (left) goes ga-ga for coconuts, which were coloured to resemble balloons in the water.

PHOTO CREDIT: WILDLIFE RESERVES SINGAPORE